Prevention Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels.
When people are exposed to CO gas, the CO molecules will displace the oxygen in their bodies and lead to poisoning
Simple precautions can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
Install carbon monoxide detectors. Put one in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house. Check the batteries every time you check your smoke detector batteries — at least twice a year. If the alarm sounds, leave the house and call 911 or the fire department. Carbon monoxide detectors are also available for motor homes and boats.
Ask your utility company about yearly checkups for all gas appliances, including your furnace.
If you have a fireplace, keep it in good repair. Clean your fireplace chimney and flue every year.
Keep vents and chimneys unblocked during remodeling. Check that they aren't covered by tarps or debris.
Make repairs before returning to the site of an incident. If carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred in your home, it's critical to find and repair the source of the carbon monoxide before you stay there again. Your local fire department or utility company may be able to help.
Use caution when working with solvents in a closed area. Methylene chloride, a solvent commonly found in paint and varnish removers, can break down (metabolize) into carbon monoxide when inhaled. Exposure to methylene chloride can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
When working with solvents at home, use them only outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Carefully read the instructions and follow the safety precautions on the label.
Where is CO found?
CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.
Who is at risk from CO poisoning?
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 100,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 14,000 are hospitalized.
Have your heating system serviced annually
How can I prevent CO poisoning in my home?
Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Check or replace the detector’s battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Replace your CO detector every five years.
Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO.
When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors, as shown below.
This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris.
This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else.
This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
Never burn charcoal indoors.
Burning charcoal – red, gray, black, or white – gives off CO.
Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.